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Villaraigosa's Out, Who Benefits?



Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will not run for governor in 2010. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's decision not to run for governor in 2010 creates a fascinating two-way Democratic primary race between San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"The answer is no," Villaraigosa told CNN's Wolf Blitzer when asked whether he would run statewide. He added that he felt "compelled" to finish out his second four year term to which he will sworn in on July 1.

Villaraigosa, the most prominent Latino elected official in California, was once seen as a rising star within the party but his underwhelming victory for a second term in March coupled with recent poll data from the Los Angeles Times suggests that he had lost significant elevation politically over the first six months of 2009.

Polling done in the governor's race showed Villaraigosa running in the mid-teens -- bunched closely with Newsom and trailing Brown by between five and ten points.

So, which candidate benefits from Villaraigosa's drop-out decision? That depends on where you stand.

From the Brown perspective, he is likely to gobble up much of Villaraigosa's support since there is no now candidate who calls the costly Los Angeles media market home and the attorney general is the best known candidate in the field.

That line of thinking is based on the belief -- proven out in numerous statewide elections in California -- that voters pay almost no attention to politics and so name identification is the most powerful tool in a winning candidate's arsenal.

Newsom supporters believe that a mano e mano race with Brown will help cement the generational contrast between the two men -- Newsom is 42, Brown is 72 -- in the eyes of voters.

They also see a real fundraising opening in Los Angeles for Newsom who had largely been limited in collecting cash in the City of Angels with Villaraigosa contemplating the contest.

The x-factor in determining who Villaraigosa's departure from the race helps is where the Latino vote goes. Neither Newsom nor Brown have an obvious entree into this community but with more than one in three California residents now of Hispanic origin if one or the other can win a significant majority of the Latino vote, he would immediately be the favorite in the contest.

In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in California, Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory over Barack Obama was fueled by her dominance in the Hispanic community; Clinton won roughly 67 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls, while winning statewide 52 percent to 42 percent.

The key to the Latino vote in the 2010 primary could well be Villaraigosa. While we tend to minimize the power of endorsements, a campaign ad in the Los Angeles media market featuring a Villaraigosa endorsement could have a powerful impact on the Latino vote.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 22, 2009; 6:10 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Comments

I realize this story is SOOO last week, but new polling data bears out that Villaraigosa's departure benefits Brown:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/29/BA4E18EMPH.DTL.

Posted by: Axisofstupidity1 | June 29, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who don't know or remember....Jerry Brown has already served as governor in California....he did not leave on a high note.....

Posted by: Keeptrying | June 23, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I am probably in the minority, but I actually thinks this helps Newsom. I see a lot of parallels between Jerry and Gavin that were in place with Hillary and Barack. An established person who has been around seemingly forever versus a young, good looking, charismatic politician. Yes, Hillary won California, however they didn't campaign for two years in the state (more like one or two weeks) so they got to know the candidates really well. Remember what happened in Iowa when Hillary and Barack did that - Barack won.

Posted by: robbygtx | June 23, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

liberals as chigger metaphor - perfect. bloodsucking parasites.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | June 23, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Only a Jesuit would run for Governor of California at this point. That's going to be one thankless job.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 23, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Mark in Austin, Brown will benefit.

Besides Brown's background in the 70's supporting a lot of classic liberal causes (labor rights, military industrial complex) he has that time in Seminary, and that will count with the Catholic Hispanic population. And , like VP, after 40 years in elected office he doesn't appear to have spent his time lining his pockets but instead has spent it serving the public.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 23, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

bsimon, Brown pleaded the invalidity of Prop 8 as AG, and usually an AG would defend a constitutional amendment vote by the public as a matter of policy.

On the other hand he left the novitiate to go into politics, I think.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | June 22, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

axisofstupidity writes
"What does that trivia say for this race? I'd argue it's that having recognition on the state-wide level for something (yes, even movie actor) tends to trump being primarily known as the mayor of one city."


So Brown gets the positives on that score; presumably because in addition to once having been mayor of a large city, he's also had a couple statewide jobs.

What's his position on gay marriage - and will that be an additional advantage with the Latino community? Seems like that's a chink in Newsome's armor in that demographic.

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 22, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

"Who's more of a man. Chrissuxcox or drivl?"

notably absent from the list: king_of_zouk

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 22, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

@Zouk - I'll leave the metaphor to you. Just that the back and forth name calling starts a bit later in a thread. I guess you've launched a preemptive strike!

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 22, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Blade. You mean like a chigger?

I think obambi likes the notion of a missile strike on Hawaii. He can claim his birth certificate was burned up in the conflagration. A perfect opportunity to eliminate missile defense.

Meanwhile can the mullahs hurry up and crush the dissent so we can get back to engagement and apology?

Posted by: king_of_zouk | June 22, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Blade. You mean like a chigger?

I think obambi likes the notion of a missile strike on Hawaii. He can claim his birth certificate was burned up in the conflagration. A perfect opportunity to eliminate missile defense.

Meanwhile can the mullahs hurry up and crush the dissent so we can get back to engagement and apology?

Posted by: king_of_zouk | June 22, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

mark_in_austin is right -- Brown has had solid support from the Latino community in numerous state-wide elections, including secretary of state, governor and attorney general, for decades now.

Villaraigosa's departure helps turn up the contrast between Brown and Newsom, but the real battle lines are going to be age and geography. Newsom is going to do very well among voters under 35 in SF and LA proper (urban, young, coastal). Brown will do better among voters 35 and older, from suburban and rural areas (Bay Area generally, greater LA, Central Valley, Sacramento, Inland Empire, etc.)

Villaraigosa would have sucked up a lot of oxygen (and money and votes) from LA that Newsom can start courting, but on balance, his departure helps Brown more given the demographics of the state.

And here is some Fixista trivia, California style. California generally doesn't elect big-city mayors to be governor. There's been only only one in recent memory: Pete Wilson, elected Governor in 1991, and former Mayor of San Diego. For the next most recent, you have to go back to 1931, and the election of James Rolph, Jr., then-Mayor of San Francisco.

The rest of California's governors have primarily been former state or federal legislators, or attorneys general ... or movie actors. (I warned you it was the California version.)

What does that trivia say for this race? I'd argue it's that having recognition on the state-wide level for something (yes, even movie actor) tends to trump being primarily known as the mayor of one city.

Posted by: Axisofstupidity1 | June 22, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

You're obsessed, Zouk. Congrats to Chris & drindl for seriously getting under your skin. Maybe it's one of those microwave weapons scrivener's always on about.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 22, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Trick question

Who's more of a man. Chrissuxcox or drivl?

Posted by: king_of_zouk | June 22, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Jerry Brown benefits.

CC, you are so young.

I remember the 1976 DN Convention, the one that nominated Carter.

Brown's name was placed in nomination by

Cesar Chavez.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | June 22, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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